The rapidly disappearing Liverpool

It is easy for some to label those who wish to preserve our built heritage as ‘heritage looneys’ or ‘stuck in the past’ etc. I am one of those who see the wisdom in retaining, were feasible, what we can. Not just for my generation but for those who follow us. Every time I walk past an old building I want to learn about it, and from learning about the building I learn about our heritage in all its wondrous forms.

If you take 2016 as an example, the following gallery will show you just how quickly our past can be lost. All the buildings pictured have already been demolished this year or are currently subject to planning applications……. and once they have gone they have gone. Lets be careful we are not discarding the past in the race for the future. Progress by all means but please make preservation at least a consideration……or better still look after and maintain them in the first place!

Please let me know if I have missed any buildings from the list.

 

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A History of St. Paul’s Church and Square, with Contemporary Cuttings

As I walk around Liverpool, which I do on an almost daily basis, the one question above all others I hear myself saying is along the lines of ‘What was there before?’. Sometimes the answer is easy and is within living memory, other times a quick Google search will suffice. The best times though are when it takes in-depth research to unearth the layers of history a particular building, street, or place may be masking beneath its latest incarnation. This has been the case with St. Paul’s Square and its current 21st Century temples of glass and steel.

What was intended as research for a blog post became more fascinating than I had imagined, and developed into a piece of work hopefully more significant.

If you can I would encourage you to first walk around, or visit virtually, the St. Paul’s Square we have today. Then as you read the full research immerse yourself in the winds of change this fascinating spot has experienced over the past 250+ years.

‘St. Paul’s Church-yard’, as it was initially called, was laid out c1760 on what was then ‘Dog Field’. Steers Dock was but 45 years old but Liverpool was now growing into one of the UK’s and indeed World’s key ports. I very much doubt that those who planned the square had envisaged the incredible wave of change that was soon to engulf both it and the growing town.

The next 250 years tells a tale of a city condensed into a square of just 50 yards by 64 yards. It has elements of immigration, religious intrigue, social change, tragedy, industry, commerce, health care, innovation, entertainment, re-birth, and a world first.

I hope to update the research in coming months as I gather further information, some hopefully shared by readers of this blog post.

If you are interested in helping get the PDF ‘published’, or printed for free distribution to interested parties then I’d love to hear from you!

Please click on the following link to open PDF, and I hope you enjoy!

A History of St. Paul's Church and Square, with Contemporary Cuttings

A History of St. Paul’s Church and Square, with Contemporary Cuttings

St Pauls_History_Liverpool1207_v6

 It would be great to hear your thoughts, cheers.

 

 

 

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The Future for Dale Street?

Liverpool city centre is a busy, vibrant and welcoming success story, which through difficult times still manages to expand. It is however true that some streets fare less well than others, and one of these is one of our original 7 streets dating from the 1200’s – Dale Street. Not without its own notable successes though. The soon to open Double-Tree by Hilton Hotel (awaits the inevitable councillor selfies), the impressive Royal Insurance Assurance rescue into the Aloft Hotel. The ongoing conversion of ‘Two Moorfields’ into residential units. The Ibis Hotel and Tesco with some excellent facade retention, and smaller successes like Sixty Dale St, Delkery, and JD Gyms.

If you take time to walk along the north side however you will notice what could be a sign of tough times ahead with empty units, derelict empty spaces, and stalled schemes which promised much:

  • Nos. 31 – 37 empty office block – Guardian Assurance Building
  • Nos. 53 – 55 empty former Workforce Recruitment office – part of current ‘Two Moorfields’ development?
  • ‘Jamaica House’ site empty demolished site since Dec 2007
  •  No. 73 empty former Top Hat Records block
  •  No. 75 New Oxford House empty upper floors, in poor repair
  •  Princes Building – PRS unit empty. Uncertainty over building conversion. Has this stalled? (inc. 10 Hockenhall Alley, and 11 – 13 Cheapside)
  • Dale St shops Site – empty demolished site – stalled Dale St shops rebuild, Jamworks
  • Nos 97 – 105, ground floor units in use but scaffolded, upper floors empty and ‘derelict’?
  • Magistrates Courts – now large empty block with no publicised future use plans, also covers Hatton Garden
  • Corner of Hatton Garden – surface car park site
  • No. 127 – empty former Higsons Brewery office. Upper floors in use
  • Nos. 135 -137, empty ex-Middleton Solicitors. Upper floors in use?
  • Churchill Flyover – longer term uncertainty which may be affecting other investment decisions?

We have had some high profile publicity for schemes like the Dale St shops site, and Princes Building, and if they come off the picture becomes much brighter. The above list though does serve notice that Liverpool Council needs to take a pro-active approach to preserving one of our original thoroughfares and ensuring it shares in the city’s continuing success.

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The Picton – a cautionary rhyme

The PICTON.

A Cautionary Rhyme by Maud Budden

You can’t make a noise in the Picton,
They won’t stand a clatter or brawl.
You must ask for your books
With intelligent looks
Or you won’t get a volume at all.

You can sing in the city Museum,
You can prattle away to the seal,
You can welcome the sight
Of each mummified fright
With a perfectly natural squeal

But you can’t make a noise in the Picton,
You can’t even splutter or choke.
If you ventured a cough
It might blow the dome off
And that would be more than a joke.

You can go the hall called St George’s
When students are getting degrees,
And can rupture your throat
With your shrillest top-note
And holler as much as you please.

But you can’t make a noise in the Picton,
Each sound is as bad as a sin.
Mr Parry looks bleak
If he hears a book creek
And he frowns at the fall of a pin.

You can laugh in the Walker Art building,
And shout with exuberant fun,
You can set up a whine
At the works on the line,
A thing which is frequently done.

But you can’t make a noise in the Picton,
Of that there is never a doubt,
And if you should walk
Through the entrance and talk
You’d be Picton and promptly pushed out!

As published in The Liverpolitan, October 1932

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Reece’s Ballroom, Parker Street, Liverpool

Local developers Jamworks are currently in the process of transforming the former Reeces Ballroom at 11 – 17 Parker Street, near to Clayton Square Shopping Centre, into 19 one-bedroom flats and 72 studios. The ground floor is currently Superdrug. Previous plans in 2011 by Tune Hotels did not come to fruition, and the floors have remained unused since the 1980’s.

During preparatory work a fascinating insights to the buildings history have been uncovered as illustrated in the following pictures:

The Beauty contest featured above was evidently to be attended by one of the world’s richest women, cosmetics entrepreneur Helena Rubinstein

S. Reece & Sons Ltd (incorporated 1908) had cafes across Liverpool including at Nos. 9, 11, 13 Parker St.  They also had offices, a dairy, and a bakery in Hawke St. Business must have been good as they invested in new premises built 1925 – 27 next door to the newly built Owen Owen building. Demolition started in 1923 as shown in the following pics (put cursor over for captions):

The building was ready for signing off during the summer of 1927 with the main building contractors of William Moss & Sons Ltd, Roscoe St Livepool having been the earlier successful tender:

£109, 287 Dated 11th Jan 1926 – ‘materials and labour in the Erection and Completion of Messrs. Recces’ new premises Clayton Square Liverpool’

The Records Office at Liverpool Central Library holds a large number of records in relation to the tenders, correspondence and architects drawings. The architects being Edmund Kirby & Sons of 5 Cook St Liverpool.

Plans for the 4th Floor

Plans for the 4th Floor

The ‘Spring Floor’ was supplied and fitted by Francis Morton, Junior & Co, London,  who also supplied the Grafton Rooms, and the  Adelphi Hotel

P1010973The build was clearly not without issues. A parquet floor needed replacing after lifting, there were arguments over awarding of contracts, a long running dispute with Standard Telephones & Cables Ltd over the music and wireless system supplied, and work was halted during the General Strike of 1926.

The LRO records show there were many fine fittings and décor, especially in the Lodge Room/Masonic Suite: – ‘six columns for Lodge Room – Doric, Corinthian, and Ionic together with the pilasters are to be fluted’ 

The Ladies Cloak Room was fitted with ‘ruboleum’ –

P1010974

The layout of the building is apparent from a ‘Copy of Information re stairs, lifts etc. supplied to Liverpool Police’

Basement:Smoke-room 73ft x 50ft x 13’ 1’’ high, and Lounge 34ft x 24ft x 13’ 1’’ high
Ground Floor Shop and light refreshments 110ft x 50ft x 17’ 1’’ high
1st FloorMain Dining Room – 110ft x 50ft x 11’10’’ high
2nd floorCafé – 110ft x 50ft x 11’7’’ high
3rd FloorBall Room – 110ft x 50ft x 12’ high
4th FloorMasonic Suite 50ft x 55ft x 12’ high, and Banqueting Hall 66ft x 27ft x 12 high
5th Floor – Broken up into Cold Storage and other small rooms essential to the kitchen’ 110ft x 50ft x 11ft high

Back Staircase – 4ft wide
Main Staircase – 6ft wide
Emergency Escape Staircase – 3rd to ground floor only – 3’ 11’’ wide
Small goods lift – 4’ 6’’ x 4’ 4’’
Large goods lift – 6’ x 4’ 9’’
Main Passenger Lifts x 3 – 5’ 4’’ x 3’ 10’’

Once open the premises were clearly a hive of activity as can be seen from it’s adverts:

Advert

The cafe gets a mention in a book about the infamous Julia Wallace ‘Man from The Pru’ murder of 1931. One of the suspects, Richard Gordon Parry, having been arrested at the cafe for theft.

A piece from The Liverpolitan Vol.13 No.12 pg.33, December 1948 paints a delightful picture of the ballroom and gives us some social history:

A RENDEVOUS TO DELIGHT DANCERS

   ‘The tremendous increase in the number of devotes of the Terpsichorean art must be apparent to every social observer. At one time dancing was a form of recreation enjoyed almost exclusively by the middle and upper classes. That is not the case today for the art is practised by practically all. This is largely due to the new freedom which has found expression in a thousand different ways since the end of the Great War, and partly to the discovery on the part of many who were formerly prejudiced against dancing as a pastime that its pursuit is in no way detrimental to morality.

With characteristic foresight, when Messrs Reece embarked upon the erection of their magnificent restaurant in Parker St, they decided that the whole of the third floor should be laid out as a ballroom. From the pictures reproduced on this page it will be seen that it is spacious and airy. The spring floor is of the most modern construction and gives perfect enjoyment to the patrons. Another advantage is found in its easy accessibility from all parts.

During the winter, tea dances are held every afternoon in the week, and except on Wednesdays and Saturdays, no charge is made to those who reserve tables for tea. On Wednesday and Saturday afternoons the charge is 1s, which does not include refreshments, whilst on Saturday nights the charge is 2s. 6d.

The music is provided by Reece’s own band under the leadership of Mr Bert Pearson. Playing together throughout the year has enabled the musicians to play a large selection of dance tunes with that rhythm and colour which makes dancing easy and creates a strong desire to take the floor.

   But one need not be a dancer to enjoy a visit to Reece’s ballroom. It attracts a sufficient number of elegantly apparelled dancers whose obvious ability and pleasure it is delightful to observe. Half an hour spent over tea on the fringe of the dance floor will offer rest and joy to jaded bodies and minds’

Reece’s was famously the venue for the wedding reception of John and Cynthia Lennon in 1962. As it was not a licensed premises, guests at the wedding breakfast had to toast the couple with water

paul-mccartney-with-john-and-cynthia-454092363

Christmas was evidently a highlight at Reece’s, as highlighted by this cutting from The Liverpolitan magazine of December 1948 featuring manager Mr. E. A. Verando:

The Liverpolitan Dec 1948

The Liverpolitan Dec 1948

Many renown guests over the years included LFC shareholders:

LFC

An advert from 1934:

From the Liverpolitan Nov 1934

From the Liverpolitan Nov 1934

Were you a Reesonian?……why not share your memories of Reece’s? Did you read the company magazine first issued 31st Dec 1930?

The developers vision post re-development with roof-top extension:

NewDevelopment
top

UPDATE – Nov 2016: with pics

Developer Caro Developments is about to convert the upper floors of the Parker Street building, which in 1962 hosted the wedding of John and Cynthia Lennon to apartments. Tony McDonough reports.

 

Liverpool Records Office references:

338.1 Ree – Reesonian 31st Dec 1930

720KIR/2699, 2700, 2701, 2702, 2697, 2698 – various correspondence, drawings, tenders etc held by architects Edmund Kirby & Co.

 

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The Liverpool Porcupine – Revisited

The Liverpool Porcupine

A heads up to a new and developing project from the History Dept. at Liverpool University has been brought to my attention and is well worth a visit: THE LIVERPOOL PORCUPINE [REVISITED]

About the site:

 The purpose of this site is to introduce the Liverpool Porcupine to a 21st century audience.  Revisiting the journal will hopefully demonstrate that – whilst the worldview of our nineteenth century ancestors can often seem quaint, strange or unenlightened – there is rarely anything wholly new in the world of politics and public affairs and issues and dilemmas’ that concern us now are not so very different from many of the preoccupations of the Victorians as they struggled to adapt to rapid social, economic and technological developments.  Contexts change;  human nature and fundamental values arguably do not!

The Porcupine:

Rarely referenced now other than as a source of ‘local colour’, the Liverpool Porcupine remained in publication for some 55 years, one of the longest-surviving of the ‘comic periodicals’ to emerge in mid-19th century England.

 Launched in Liverpool in October 1860…….. read more

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The Main Bridewell and Dale St shops site

The Main Bridewell, and the ‘Dale St shops site’ Liverpool

It is not every day that we can celebrate the preservation, restoration, and rebirth of an iconic and historic Liverpool building. This was indeed the case though following some superb restoration work by Jamworks Ltd and Vermont Construction on the Main Bridewell in Cheapside, with the stated and well publicised intention of opening as student accommodation.

The author of this blog supported this move to save and utilise an historic building such as The Bridewell. I praised the developers on the workmanship in restoring the Bridewell. I queried the change from the planned student accommodation. I wished the operators well for their hotel operation. I lamented the loss of Georgian buildings on Lime St but welcomed the proposals for redevelopment and ‘reassembly’. I live in close proximity to both sites discussed.

In September 2009 the Liverpool Echo reports that the Bridewell has been purchased by Wirral-based Students Lettings Point for £450,000.

The story then develops leading to some excellent restoration, but also to as yet unanswered questions.

Despite concerns relating to heritage listing and necessary works to modernise etc. the developers gained planning permission in January 2014 to convert the former prison into student accommodation. Main concerns centred around lowering of window sills – not sure if this actually happened as, I believe, students ‘right to light’ differed from that which would apply to a hotel.

Progress on the Main Bridewell was rapid and the quality of the restoration was praised by many. Jamworks actively advertised the forthcoming student accommodation:

Dale St shops site - Liverpool Echo

Dale St shops site – Liverpool Echo

However in March 2015 it was then announced via the Liverpool Echo, as a suprise to many, that the Bridewell would open as a hotel operated by a company called ‘Stay Central’ – whom have a website http://www.staycentral.com/ but appear to operate via Facebook. The hotel opened for Grand National weekend this year.

There was no mention in the Echo story as to why the plans for student accommodation seem to have been abandoned, and no mention of the lack of planning permission to operate as a hotel.

Even the architects Falconer Chester Hall said ‘didn’t know anything about it’

FCH

The Planning Dept. at Liverpool City Council did not know about this change of use either:

21st April‘The local planning authority has not received any applications to use the above premises as a hotel. We are trying to find out who the property may have been sold to so we can advise that such a use would require planning permission’

The Echo reported on this story this on 13th May 2015 stating that Liverpool Council had now contacted the operators informing them they needed to apply for planning permission to operate as an 85 room hotel

On 21st July 2015 this was later the Echo headline story : including

A letter to the council’s planning department on behalf of Jamworks explains: “The conversion to a hotel has overtaken the previously approved scheme for student accommodation on grounds of viability and long term objectives by the client company to deliver a unique brand of hotel accommodation within the city, comprising the ‘StayCentral.Com’ brand.”

A few weeks later on Aug 5th we see this on Twitter, again advertising The Bridewell as student accommodation:

JamworksAug2015

Jamworks are also once again advertising it as student accommodation on their website

It subsequently comes to light from Liverpool City Council that:

‘An application was submitted on 5th of July but it was not accompanied with a correct set of plans or appropriate supporting information (information on management of the building, servicing and delivery strategy for a hotel use etc)’

The application is currently invalid awaiting the correct set of plans and supporting documents’.

It waits to be seen what happens in September.

Dale St shops site

Whilst all of the above is going on the Dale St shops site, purchased for £1, still sits vacant and increasingly litter and debris strewn.

Adjacent to the Bridewell this was another long neglected site – a Grade II Listed Georgian terrace of c1819 shops but sadly in a very bad state at the time this story begins.

In November 2013 Liverpool City Council announces the shops site will be sold to Jamworks for £1 :

‘The Mayoral Cabinet will be asked, on Friday 6 December, to approve new proposals which would see the Grade II listed ‘Dale Street Shops’ (87-95 Dale Street and 2-6 Cheapside) carefully restored and brought back into use.

 Jamworks Ltd are about to start work on the £5 million conversion of the adjacent Grade II* listed Bridewell building, and if the deal for the Dale Street Shops is given the go-ahead, they would deliver the two schemes in tandem, creating a combined site, comprising private residential units on the upper floors and office and traditional retails units on the ground floor.

‘As part of the deal, the city council would make a grant of £275,000 available to the developer from its Buildings at Risk Capital programme to make the project financially viable’ – Liverpool City Council

‘Robust background and financial checks will be undertaken by the city council, alongside full due diligence on the detail of the proposal.’

Demolition started in January 2014 and was completed soon afterwards. It transpires that the original named construction contractors, Vermont, who completed the successful and very well received restoration and refurbishment of the previously derelict Bridewell were not given the opportunity to complete the Dale st shops contract, and demolition was carried out direct by Jamworks. The reasons for this are not known, nor is it known if the Council were/are aware of this. Signage around the site name John Turner Construction as the new construction contractors.

I, as a local resident, have continually sort reassurances about the delays. Liverpool City Council has kindly responded to requests for information, none of which has been indicated as being confidential:

May 2015 ‘…..confident that the Council’s position is protected here – and, more importantly, the shops, from a heritage perspective. I understand from previous correspondence that the shops have been dismantled, rather than demolished, and can be rebuild – which is Jamworks intention. The City Council can step in, if the development is incomplete by the completion date.

– I’d caution against doing anything that could jeopardise Jamworks obtaining agreement on financing the development. It’s in everyone’s interest that this development is completed according to the timescale in development agreement. If, for whatever reason, the Council has to step in, it could take longer and cost more for the development to be complete – and the shops brought back in to use.’

May 2015 ‘…..my most recent correspondence with the developer ‘Jamworks’ concerning the Dale Street Shops site has indicated that financing is an issue and needs to be agreed with their external funders in order for the scheme to progress. I do not have more specific details. It is a surprise that the enabling works and site clearance commenced without the appropriate financing being in place to ensure completion of the scheme by the agreed long stop date…..

The developer has not yet responded to the question when the works are likely to recommence although there is no reason to suspect that the scheme has stalled indefinitely. As indicated there is a legal agreement in place requiring the scheme is delivered within a agreed period and any Council funding under the section 57 Listed Building grant is only eligible for payment once practical completion is achieved. I understand the Council, as freeholder, has step-in rights under the development agreement that would be triggered in the event that the development remains incomplete by the scheduled completion date’

May 2015 and the Echo runs a story…. ‘Work on Dale St shops site to ‘start in months’ despite demolition of historic listed building’

In July further correspondence from Liverpool City Council:

At August the site, on one of the city’s premier streets and directly facing the Council offices, is still an eyesore for both locals and tourists alike.

To date Jamworks have provided limited information on the delays other than this back on 19th June of this year:

JamworksJune2015

This appears to be at odds with the Council message that the delay is due to issues with funding.

Dale St shops site - Aug 2015

Dale St shops site – Aug 2015

 

Dale St has had some notable successes of late and I hope this eventually joins them to the satisfaction of all parties involved. The Bridewell and ‘shops site’ do though raise possible questions, I’ll leave you to consider your own.

Main Bridewell - Aug 2015

The popular Bridewell Hotel- Aug 2015

 

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St Mark’s Church, Upper Duke St 1803

St Mark’s Church of England, Upper Duke St 1803 – 1908

What was one of Liverpool’s largest churches, and lasted over a century before closure and demolition, did not get off to the most auspicious of starts……..read more

St Mark's c1910

St Mark’s c1910

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Wolstenholme Square, Liverpool

Laid out c1750 as a tree lined square and Ladies walk on land owned by the Wolstenholme family, the square has a fascinating history being built up since c1756. During the following 250 years it has gone through many phases as Liverpool developed. It suffered badly in the Blitz of 1941, has become a night club phenomenon, is home to Penelope, and  it is soon to see some re-development once again……

read more……..

WolstenholmeSq

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St Thomas’s, Park Lane, Liverpool

St Thomas’s Church, Park Lane, Liverpool

1750 – 1905

Despite being built in 1750, closed in 1905 and demolished in 1911, the Church of St Thomas is still closer to us than many people realise. Equally so are the legacies of many who were buried at the church. Just 0.5 of a meter below your feet as you walk around the Memorial Gardens at the end of Paradise St/Park Lane lay the remains of early ‘elite’ Liverpool citizens in brick lined vaults capped with gravestones. In the process of researching into St Thomas’ it has been exciting to uncover what appear to be some previously unrecorded facts, and be able to help fill in some gaps in previous accounts. Amongst some unrelated books I was fortunate to find …….read more

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